Rogue Cop: A Morality Play Masquerading as a Gangster Film

1954 was a good year for Robert Taylor. He starred in two notable films Valley of the Kings and Rogue Cop. In May he married Ursula Thiess, the love of his life. This is my review of Rogue Cop.

Rogue Cop is a movie about sin, redemption and forgiveness. The story is told through the life of Det. Sgt. Chris Kelvaney (Robert Taylor), a crooked cop. Kelvaney is living high off his contacts in the underworld, dressing beautifully and throwing money around as no honest cop could. He has a younger brother Eddie (Steve Forrest), a uniformed cop on the beat. One night Eddie sees a murderer escaping from the crime scene and subsequently identifies the crook from mug shots.

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The murderer, it seems, has friends in high (or low) places in the underworld, Beaumont (George Raft) and Ackerman (Robert F. Simon). They tell Chris to call off Eddie unless he wants his brother killed. Eddie, being a straight arrow, refuses to cooperate and suffers the consequences. The rest of the movie concerns Chris Kelvaney’s quest to avenge his brother while avoiding disgrace from his superiors.

Chris Kelvaney is played by Robert Taylor in an Oscar worthy performance as a man who is, at first, satisfied with himself but who comes to realize what a mess he’s made of things. Gradually he becomes disgusted with himself and begins to understand that he needs forgiveness for his past. Taylor is utterly convincing in the role, first as the self-satisfied crook and later as the devastated man looking to make amends by turning informer and closing down Raft’s crime empire.

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Steve Forrest’s role is underwritten but he makes the best of it. Unusually for a gangster film, Rogue Cop has two female characters who actually do something. Janet Leigh is Karen, a former mobster’s moll whose escape from the world of crime inspires Chris. There is a wonderful scene where Chris is bullying Karen to get her to help his brother. He grabs her roughly and kisses her. She resists and then gradually responds to the kiss. Leigh’s face  eloquently portrays the change. Anne Francis plays Beaumont’s drunken mistress Nancy. Kelvaney is the only person who treats her kindly when her paramour throws her out. His gentleness is a step on his way to redemption.

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Robert Ellenstein is especially good as an honest cop who turns on Kelvaney for his dishonesty then supports him at the end. A wounded and possibly dying Kelvaney asks him for forgiveness but the reply is ambiguous.

Rogue Cop‘s John F. Seitz was nominated for a best black and white cinematography  Oscar for 1954. The movie was based on a novel of the same name by mystery writer and screen writer William P. McGivern.

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About giraffe44

I became a Robert Taylor fan at the age of 15 when his TV show, "The Detectives" premiered. My mother wanted to watch it because she remembered Mr. Taylor from the thirties. I took one look and that was it. I spent the rest of my high school career watching Robert Taylor movies on late night TV, buying photos of him, making scrapbooks and being a typical teenager. College, marriage and career intervened. I remember being sad when Mr. Taylor died. I mailed two huge scrapbooks to Ursula Thiess. I hope she got them. Time passed, retirement, moving to Florida. Then in 2012 my husband Fred pointed that there were two Robert Taylor movies that evening on Turner Classic Movies--"Ivanhoe" and "Quentin Durward." I watched both and it happened all over again. I started this blog both for fans and for people who didn't know about Robert Taylor. As the blog passes 200,000 views I'm delighted that so many people have come by and hope it will help preserve the legacy of this fine actor and equally good man.
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6 Responses to Rogue Cop: A Morality Play Masquerading as a Gangster Film

  1. SusanaG. says:

    I think this is a prime example of those dark, “message movies” Dore Schary brought into MGM in the post Mayer’s era–note there isn’t even any soundtrack in this one. And RT not only gave the best of himself in all of them, but also they gave him the chance to play the more mature, difficult, complex roles of his career.
    I liked “Rogue Cop” from the first viewing… even though I remember I caught it on TV, dubbed and computer-colorized (it was at the time Ted Turner boasted his MGM repertory of newly–actually, appallingly–tinted film classics, “Camille” and “Westward the Women” included). It took a long time to get hold of a copy of the original version. Anyway, the film really came to life when I saw the original.
    I found interesting the rapport between Taylor-Raft and Taylor-Leigh. Apparently they all got along well and enjoyed working together.
    Thank for your review Judith. It reminded me that it’s time to watch this film again.

  2. giraffe44 says:

    It was colorized? Good grief. The movie was so effective in b&w. It would look entirely too cheerful in color. I agree about it being a Dore Schary movie. Schary and Taylor apparently got along well despite their differences of opinion about some things.

  3. dianne345 says:

    I watched the 1949 version of “Little Women” this morning (love this movie & its stars) & it made me think of the one movie Janet Leigh made with Robert Taylor. I found my VHS tape of “Rogue Cop” (colorized) & it watched it this afternoon. As you said, it was an Oscar-worthy performance by RT & Janet Leigh & Anne Francis were great too.

    I have a number of colorized movies that I taped years ago from TNT. I did like the colorization process, especially for westerns, & was sorry to see it come to an end. That is a rare opinion for a fan of classic movies, I know, but I have always preferred color to black & white, perhaps because the movies my mother took me to see when I was a young child were mostly in color. And the colorizers in most cases gave RT the blue eyes I always thought were such an outstanding part of his good looks. Sorry for my rather bizarre opinion about colorization.

  4. giraffe44 says:

    Hi, Dianne. I would actually enjoy seeing a colorized version of “Rogue Cop” if it was done well. Some movies do, in my opinion, work better in black and white but many would have been better in color. “Rogue Cop” is one of them. Funny, I was going to watch that last night but I went to bed instead. 🙂 All the best, Judith

  5. Pingback: Rogue Cop: A Morality Play Masquerading as a Gangster Film | Crawfordgold's Blog

    • giraffe44 says:

      I don’t know. Someone was nice enough to send it to me as a computer file. It’s a darned shame–it’s a really good film with an outstanding performance by Anne Francis-and Robert Taylor, of course. Thanks for writing.

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